Blackcurrant cordial is an excellent way to use end of season fruit, overripe or frozen currants. Fruity, sharp, intense — blackcurrants transform into a vibrant cordial that's high in vitamin C. Served hot or cold, blackcurrant cordial is wonderfully restoring.
Adding brandy means that the alcohol acts as a seal on the surface of the cordial and will help to preserve it. If you are making the cordial for children you may prefer not to add this — or split the batch, adding brandy to some of the bottles. Another option is to add a little to white wine — still or sparkling — for a lively summery spritzer.
Lightly pick over the currants, removing any woody stems — don’t worry too much about stripping the currants from the stalks or topping and tailing them because these bits will be strained out later. Rinse the currants in cold water and put them in a large pan with 650ml/22fl oz water. Slowly bring to the boil for 4–5 minutes, crushing the fruit with a wooden spoon or a potato masher until the currants have burst and released their juice. Remove from the heat.
Strain through a jelly bag or a fine sieve set over a large bowl for several hours or overnight, pressing the fruit lightly with the back of a large spoon or potato masher to extract as much juice as possible.
Measure the juice — you should have about 1 litre/1¾ pints — and put into a clean pan. For every 1 litre/1¾ pints juice add 500g/1lb 2oz sugar. Gently heat the mixture until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from the heat. Pour immediately into warm, sterilised bottles, leaving 1–2cm/½–¾in gap at the top. At this point you may add a couple of teaspoonfuls of brandy to each bottle. Seal immediately with a screwtop or cork.
Store in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.
To serve, dilute 1 part cordial to 5 parts cold (still or sparkling) or freshly boiled hot water. Add a sprig of fresh mint if you like.
To sterilise the bottles and lids, put them through a hot (at least 60C) dishwasher cycle. Do not dry them with a tea towel, leave them to air dry. Alternatively, preheat the oven to 140C/120C Fan/Gas 1. Wash the bottles and lids in hot soapy water and place them upside down in the oven for 15 minutes.
Instead of the blackcurrants, use a mix of soft berries and currants such as redcurrants.
Waste not, want not: don’t discard the pulp. Stir a little sugar into it and keep in a sealed container in the fridge. Delicious with yoghurt or breakfast cereal, rippled through homemade ice cream, or as a pie or crumble filling.
To freeze, pack into plastic bottles, leaving 2–3cm/about 1in gap at the top to allow the liquid to expand as it freezes.